Having a hearing loss is one thing. But did you know that there are different effects of this that have nothing to do with hearing?
If you delay treatment for hearing loss, it could affect your physical, mental and social well-being. But if you treat it early, you can reduce the chances of these consequences occurring.
Hearing loss and reduced brain function
The ear picks up and transmits the sounds that surround us. But it is the brain that processes the signals and gives them meaning.
With hearing loss, the brain receives fewer sounds and “forgets” what to do with them. In recent years, researchers have found that when hearing loss occurs, the areas of the brain that deal with the other senses take over the areas of the brain that normally process hearing. This is called intermodal cortical reorganization. Essentially, the brain tries to compensate for hearing loss by rewiring its connections. And this can have a serious effect on cognition.
When the brain’s ability to process sound is reduced, it also affects the ability to understand speech. And even with mild hearing loss, the hearing areas of the brain are weakened. With weaker hearing areas, the areas that are necessary for higher level thinking will compensate for these areas. So, they fill in and take over the audition instead of doing their main job.
The good news is that you can do something about it. Research has indicated that hearing aids can help prevent or slow the decline in brain function.
Hearing loss and Alzheimer’s disease
A consequence of untreated hearing loss can reduce brain function. This can stimulate conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. At the Washington University Department of Medicine, a study of 100 cases of Alzheimer’s patients found that 83% had hearing loss.
Once these patients were fitted with hearing aids, 33% were classified as having dementia less severe than Alzheimer’s. According to the Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research, many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be caused indirectly by hearing loss. But hearing aids can help prevent or delay dementia and, as previous research shows, can reduce the impact of dementia.
Hearing Loss and Depression
In the United States, the National Council on Aging conducted a large-scale study of the consequences of untreated hearing loss. The study found that people with hearing loss who didn’t use hearing aids were nearly twice as likely to experience depression as those who did. This is often the result of deprivation and social isolation because hearing loss is very difficult to have.
The study supports that the use of hearing aids reduces the probability of depression, sadness, anxiety or paranoia. In addition to this, a 2017 study suggests that depression from hearing loss could also be relieved with the support and understanding of friends and family. Therefore, people with hearing loss can benefit from having a network of people with whom they feel comfortable discussing their problems.
Hearing loss, falls and their consequences
It has been demonstrated time after time for years now that an untreated hearing loss causes risk of falls, simply because your awareness of your surroundings decreases. Falls are responsible for a series of injuries such as bone fractures or brain injuries, mainly for the population over 65 years of age.
Upside Down: Diseases That Can Cause Hearing Loss
Type 2 Diabetes
People with diabetes are more than twice as likely to experience hearing loss as people without diabetes. Diabetes causes sclerosis of the arteries and thickening of the small blood vessels. This affects blood flow to the inner ear. The decreased flow of oxygen can eventually result in hearing loss. People with diabetes should have routine checkups to keep hearing loss at bay.
Cancer can also cause hearing loss indirectly
This is due to chemotherapy. One of the most hidden side effects of chemotherapy is ototoxicity, or toxic damage to the inner ear, a condition that causes hearing loss. According to the University of Arizona Cancer Center, “hearing loss has become one of the most prevalent side effects of modern cancer therapy. In fact, hearing loss is among the least reported, but potentially devastating side effects many chemotherapy patients experience.”
High blood pressure can also lead to hearing loss.
A study from Grant Medical College in Mumbai found that if your blood pressure is high, it can damage your blood vessels, including those in your ear. This leads to a buildup of fatty plaque, which affects your hearing. Therefore, it is important to get treatment for high blood pressure before damage to your hearing occurs.